The Fresh Loaf

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My favourite pain au levain

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rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

My favourite pain au levain

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon where I am - good time to tap out a post. Besides, it's 10-10-10...gotta commemorate that somehow!


Like many here, I suspect, I love trying new breads, and have a never-diminishing must-bake list of breads I want to try - never-diminishing because no matter how many I try, I keep adding more! Thanks to Shiao-Ping's current posting hiatus, I've managed to get through most of hers now (any newcomers looking for a great source of new breads, put her name in the search window and just take your pick from any of her amazing bakes). But then along comes TXFarmer!!! Sigh...


Much as I enjoy trying new breads, I have identified 5 or 6 of the 50 or so different breads I've baked in the last couple of years that I keep coming back to as my favourites. These now comprise my core repertoire, all 100% SDs: pain de campagne (my version), Gerard Rubaud's formula (thanks to Shiao-Ping), Norwich Rye (Wild Yeast Susan's adaptation of Hamelman's Vermont SD, which I also tweak in various ways), San Joaquin SD (DM Snyder), and my version of pain au levain.


It's the last that I want to share today, because of all my favourites, if I had to pick a number 1 this would be it. Why?



  • the flavour profile - the rye component comes from the starter, which seems to add a different quality of flavour from rye that is added to a dough at mixing stage, and the small amount of wholewheat flour sweetens it up a little, while the white flour component keeps it light

  • the hydration level ensures it is a relatively easy dough to work with

  • ever-reliable

  • versatile - compatible with both savoury and sweet accompaniments, toasts well

  • the crust - nice rustic look when done as a batard (my favourite shape), but not as thick as, say, the San Joaquin, or as thin as my pain de campagne...so Goldilocks would like it!

  • the crumb - the combination of bakers' flour and AP flour keeps the structure strong, but open and slightly spongy


This pain au levain developed out of various breads that I tweaked until I ended up with the formula that follows. There's nothing remarkable about the formula: pretty typical SD bread. Actually, if I recall correctly, the formula I initially based this bread on was a camp oven SD bread that someone posted on the Sourdough Companion site. Not sure how much I've ended up deviating from the prototype, but after a lot of experimenting and tweaking, the formula that follows is the one I have found myself returning to again and again. It just seems 'right' to me. Of course, feel free to try your own tweaks. My taste may not equate exactly with yours.


So, to the recipe. Be aware that this is scaled to the weight I prefer. I like to bake batards that my partner and I can finish in 2 days, so I can then move on to another bread, and it is always fresh. If you have a larger household, you might like to scale this up accordingly.


INGREDIENTS



  • Ripe starter (100% hydration: 30% whole grain organic rye/70% organic unbleached AP flour): 150gm

  • Filtered water: 300gm

  • Wholegrain organic flour: 25gm

  • Premium organic bakers' flour: 200gm

  • Organic unbleached AP flour: 275gm

  • Pure sea salt: heaped teaspoon (or 2% if you want a standard measure of salt...I slightly undersalt my doughs)


Note: This recipe assumes an ambient temp of 22C/72F (adjust proofing times up or down, depending on your own ambient temp)


METHOD



  • Mix all ingredients other than salt, autolyse 30-40mins.

  • Mix salt into dough

  • Bulk proof 3 hours, with 2 stretch-and-folds 30 mins apart initially, then S&F once per hour thereafter

  • After BP, preshape and rest 10 mins

  • Shape

  • Final Proof: 30 mins (dough covered in plastic), then retard in fridge overnight

  • Bake straight out of fridge next day


BAKING



  • Heat oven to 250C/480F with pizza stone or baking tile, and with metal tray in bottom for ice. Bake in lower-middle of oven.

  • When 250C has been reached, drop 3 ice cubes into heated tray in bottom of oven just prior to loading slashed dough. Immediately after loading dough, spray surface of loaf and around oven with water, and shut door. Wait 2 minutes and spray again around oven. Shut door and drop oven temp to 225C/435F.

  • Bake 15 mins starting from time you loaded dough, then drop oven to 215C/420F

  • Bake 12 mins @ 215C, then drop oven temp to 200C/390F

  • Bake 14 mins @ 200C, then take bread out of oven and rest for minimum 2 hours on cake rack or similar.


I'll leave you with a couple of pics of a pain au levain I baked this morning.


Cheers
Ross



 



 


 


 

Comments

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Well celebrated Ross and is it you we have to thank for the rain? it was only a little drop but it was beautifull to see after such a long spell without, and the prospect of a hot dry summer with so little in the catchments. Please make this again Ross my garden is looking so much happier this morning. Seriously nice bread there mate!


Yozza

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Yeah, I'll take a bow for the rain, but not a very low one - think it might be the last for a while! I'll be baking another pain au levain tomorrow, so that'll put this little theory to the test. Watch the skies...:)


Cheers
Ross


 

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

I have trouble with my large boules or batard getting too much color (think burned) if I bake until they are 200ºF  This will be a good experiment for me.  Pam

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I think you'll find you'll end up with a nice coloured crust if you follow the baking directions above. Generally speaking, I'm not particularly partial to very dark, thick crusts either, and arrived at the baking temperature gradations specified above through tweaking over multiple bakes until I got the finish (and crumb) I prefer. I should have added a note, though, that the above baking times are with the fan off, which is my preference for bread. And of course, since ovens and flours vary, my baking times probably won't be perfect for everyone else. Should be a good guide until you've made your own tweaks over a few bakes, though.


Let us know how you go.


Cheers
Ross

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

A question about the starter.  Do you maintain a wheat starter and feed it the rye combination only while building for this recipe?  

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Re the starter: Think we've covered this in another thread, but for the benefit of anyone looking on I maintain a 100% hydration starter comprising 30% whole-grain organic rye and 70% white flour.


Cheers!
Ross

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Hi Ross,


Sorry that I didn't spot your fabulous-looking pain au levain before now! It looks brilliant, and that shot of the crumb is proof that this is a well-balanced and perfectly executed formula.


I think we share the same preference when it comes to pain au levains, as my method is very similar to yours. What I find particularly convenient about this formulation, is that you can easily get away with weekday baking: Either mix final dough in the afternoon/evening and bake in the morning or vice-versa.


I guess the main difference between our formulations, is that you use a 70/30 wheat/rye starter, while I use a rye starter in my pain au levain. As you and Mini have mentioned elsewhere, changing the flour composition of the starter is a very interesting way of changing the flavour of the baked loaf.

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Yes, as mentioned on the thread of your most recent post, I am most interested to try your pain au levain. Mini and you have both indicated that 100% rye starters impart some delectable qualities of flavour, and I'm looking forward to trying this. In fact, your pain au levain has now jumped to the head of my must-bake list. Next bake!


Cheers
Ross

Kobali's picture
Kobali

I will try this soon but I want to know if you knead the dough after mixing if so how long or just mix?
Thanks

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The third bullet, which talks about a 3-hour bulk ferment also talks about stretch and folds at intervals.  That's the only kneading required for this formula.


Paul

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I found the thread between you, Mini, and Hans to be very interesting and have just recently been experimenting with adding rye to my WW AP starters.  The last time I tried this created a very noticeable and pleasing flavor profile in the loaf that followed.  Traditionally I had been using 30% WW and 70 % The following is a very interesting article of Q&A of french baker Gerard Rubaud that I think each of you will find interesting.  It concerns his ingredients for his levain as well as the various flours he uses for the dough.


http://www.farine-mc.com/2010/01/ask-baker-gerard-rubaud.html


Bernie Piel

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

And thanks for the Gerard Rubaud link. I did look over that post a while back, but meant to go back and re-read it more carefully. But alas, the plans of mice and men... I find the net induces a type of amnesia, and get so easily sidetracked, never to retrace my footsteps however firm my intention. So, thanks for putting me back on track with Gerard!


Cheers
Ross

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The dough is pretty sticky!  (must be the rye)  What did you encounter?  I just mixed in the salt and put it to rest.


Mini

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

But I scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl (using a dough scraper) and into a 10L plastic container for the BP - and I do oil this container lightly.


Most interested in how this bread turns out for you.


Cheers
Ross